After a one-year hiatus caused by Covid-19, the New England Patriots Hall of Fame committee met again on Wednesday to discuss the former players, coaches or contributors worthy of consideration. The first step in the process was narrowing down the list of players to a group of nominees.
According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, who is part of the election committee, nine players reached the next round and are now officially nominated to make it into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Those players are as follows:
DL Julius Adams: Spending his entire 16-year career with the Patriots, the late Adams was one of the best defensive linemen in franchise history. He appeared in 212 games for the club — including its first Super Bowl — and was named to its 50th Anniversary Team and Teams of the 1970s and 1980s.
Chuck Fairbanks: Fairbanks joined the Patriots in 1973 and was able to turn the team’s fortunes around. New England went 46-41 in six seasons with him as its head coach, reached the playoffs twice, and won its first division title in 15 years.
G Logan Mankins: A first-round draft pick in 2005, Mankins developed into one of the best guards in football during his nine years in New England. Along the way, he played in 147 regular season and playoff games and was voted to six Pro Bowls, the NFL’s Team of the 2010s, and the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team.
S Lawyer Milloy: During his seven-year career as a Patriot, Milloy appeared in 121 games and as a leader in the secondary helped the organization win its first Super Bowl. A four-time Pro Bowler, he was named to the Patriots’ Teams of the 2000s and 2010s.
Bill Parcells: The Patriots were a moribund organization when Parcells arrived in 1993, and he helped lead them back to relevance: while New England went just 34-34 during his four seasons, it reached the playoffs twice, won an AFC East title, and went to the Super Bowl. Parcells’ tenure with the team was a success, but it ended in controversy when he left to join the New York Jets.
K John Smith: A member of the Patriots’ Team of the 1970s, Smith played 118 games for the club between 1974 and 1983. While his numbers do not stand out by modern standards — he made “only” 67 percent of his field goals — he was a very good kicker back in the day.
LB Mike Vrabel: Before becoming one of the NFL’s better head coaches, Vrabel spent eight highly successful seasons as a member of the Patriots’ linebacker group. As such, he appeared in 142 games, registered 56 sacks and helped the organization win three Super Bowls. A member of its 50th Anniversary Team, Vrabel also stood out as a part-time tight end: he turned all 10 of his career receptions into touchdowns.
WR Wes Welker: Arriving via trade from the Miami Dolphins in 2007, Welker instantly turned into one of the most productive pass catchers in all of football. Over his six years as a member of the Patriots, he caught a combined 741 passes in 102 regular season and playoff games for 8,145 yards and 41 touchdowns. Welker also led the NFL in receptions three separate times and was named to five Pro Bowls while in New England.
DT Vince Wilfork: Wilfork was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2004 draft and went on to spend 11 seasons with the team. One of the best defensive tackles of his era, he appeared in a combined 179 regular season and playoff games for New England and won two Super Bowl rings. He is a five-time Pro Bowler and member of the Patriots’ Teams of the 2000s and 2010s, as well as their 50th Anniversary squad.
In a next step, that group of nominees will be reduced down to three finalists. The person out of those three receiving the most votes in a fan poll will eventually become the next inductee into the Patriots’ Hall of Fame.
So, who will it be? Mike Vrabel and Bill Parcells have both previously reached the final round, while Vince Wilfork and Wes Welker are strong candidates to advance to the next round in their first year of eligibility. With Logan Mankins a possible outside option as well, it seems likely that the eventual winner will come from that group.
In that case, long-time team captain and fan favorite Wilfork should probably be considered the favorite.